I titled this article “How to Homeschool a Child with Dyslexia” but let me give a disclaimer.
The purpose of this article is not to tell you how to successfully homeschool your child, although I can (and sometimes do) offer some advice on that count. This post is about how I deal with emotional situations from my struggling learners while we homeschool. When emotional situations happen, don’t be thrown for a loop.
Currently, I homeschool not one child with dyslexia, but two. The eldest is seventeen and the youngest is ten. I have two other sons who also deal with dyslexia. They were never tested because I didn’t know any better. They are now well-functioning adults who work hard and are respected by their peers. They were my introduction to working with struggling learners. And they are proof that dyslexia does NOT mean stupid or lazy.
Let me begin with an example from our homeschool yesterday. I was working with my ten year old son, Zane. We were doing math (my kids have also dealt with discalculia) and Zane was in tears. He is in fifth grade and he still has to think for a while to remember basic math facts. Rote memorization is a beast for this child as it was for my eldest.
I have bought every resource I can think of that is supposed to help a child learn their math facts. Have they helped? Yes, but not at the rate the products claim they will. Does my son think they are a fun way to learn. No, because it is still math. Anyway, as I stated earlier, yesterday’s lesson had Zane in tears and I had to deal with it. We didn’t complete the lesson. It will probably take us several days, in fact it may take a couple of weeks. And that is okay. You have to realize that the goal is mastery – not how quickly they get through the material.
I have found some helpful resources( at least for helping to memorize the multiplication facts) that I will share later, but right now let’s look at how I deal with emotional breakdowns and in my experience they will happen.
One more disclaimer. When I talk about emotional breakdowns I am not talking about your basic bad attitude or rebellion. Every parent has their own means of disciplining for disobedient behavior. I am talking about sincere frustration, sadness, etc. over the struggles they face. Please know there is a difference. With that in mind let’s look at how I handled the situation mentioned above.
So, what did I do?
- I Showed Compassion – I held him while he cried. Obviously, I would love for my child to be so confident in his strengths that his weaknesses never affect him, but that is unrealistic. When your child is working to understand something and they can’t seem to “get it”, don’t be surprised if they become frustrated or demoralized. And don’t make them feel bad for having those feelings. They are understandable. Children are not being bad because they feel discouraged or hurt. They are being human and humans need compassion.
- I acknowledged his feelings – I told him, “I know how hard this is”. I didn’t say, “Just think about all of the things you’re good at…”. Believe me, I have tried this before and it rarely seemed to help. I finally figured out why. It doesn’t work because my child wants to be able to do what his friends can do. There is a box that society has created that does exist, and it says that a ‘smart’ person can do “X” when they are “X years old”. When you are working with a child who doesn’t progress at the same pace as some of their friends what they really need is for you to accept that their feelings are not unreasonable to them. Find out what the source of their frustration is. Zane struggles with feeling stupid and surprise! surprise! It isn’t cured simply because I tell him he is smart. You have to find the connection that says I understand why you feel that way, but I want you to consider this…This past week, as I worked with Zane, I asked him if he had known how to do the problems he had just completed when we began this school year. He answered, “No”. It was a chance for me to point out that he has learned a lot because he is smart. Look for those opportunities that show personal progress not comparative progress.
- I offered a solution to overcoming his feelings of inadequacy – I promised we will take it slow until he gets it. This seems simple, but it puts the ball in my court. I am the one who has to be willing to stay on something until I am sure he understands it. This is easier said than done. Why? Because with dyslexia, one day they may seem to remember everything then the very next day it can be hiding in some deep corner of their brain. I want to make faster progress but what matters is that he is making progress that sticks. I have come to a formula that works for my son. I make sure he has 3 days of success on a new subject before I move on to something new. And keep in mind, those 3 days in a row may not come until after 5 days of working on the concept. Patience and discipline pays off.
- I kept my and his expectations realistic – I told him I would not leave him to do these lessons on his own. Don’t get me wrong. I have a goal for each of my children to be able to work independently, even my struggling students. In fact, it is powerful to their self-esteem when they can finish school work by themselves. So, I try to assign work they can do on their own. But If they haven’t mastered it, then I am committed to work through it with them first until I am sure they know it. It is amazing how this combats their fear of failure. Zane and Joey usually tell me when they feel ready to try something on their own and I always let them. But until then I stay by their side.
- I know when enough is enough – I saw what he needed was a break and I told him to go play with his LEGO’s. Sometimes the best thing is to let it rest. Go do something different. There are times when the appropriate action is to press on and drill a bit longer, but there are times I can tell his brain isn’t processing anymore and I need to end the session. You shouldn’t give up because something is hard at the time. But learn how to recognize when your child needs to give his brain a rest. I have found that when they are at the point of tears, it is time to step back for now and pick it up again later.
Have you been here with your child?
Don’t get discouraged. If you get discouraged, they will become even more discouraged than they already are. You also can’t give up because these are things they need to know and THEY ARE CAPABLE OF LEARNING THEM. Just know that some things will be learned in a different way and will take longer.
I do have some links to help with math (these all focus on multiplication since that is where we are right now) so check them out below. These are affiliate links but they are truly products that have brought about improvement.
Times Tales From Educents – This little dvd has been invaluable. Mind you I have to remind my son to think about the stories as he is doing math but when he does he can remember the facts easily. I have heard people say their kids have learned their math facts in an hour. That hasn’t been the case with Zane, but he is improving and there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I highly recommend this. I also want to add that Zane is 10 and he found the dvds a little young for him. I simply told him he was going to give them a chance and needed to use them anyway. I know now that he is glad that he did.
Multiplication Memorizer Kit – This card kit is similar to the above mentioned video.It uses visual clues to help your child remember the facts. My children do well memorizing rote facts when they are combined with stories.
I really do want to hear how you respond when your child is frustrated or discouraged so please comment below. And be sure to sign up for our FREE Newsletter at the end of this post. And try to remember:
People are more important than progress
Robin Liner is a wife, and veteran homeschool mom with over twenty years experience. She has written two picture books and actively blogs about homeschooling with an emphasis on teaching dyslexic children at crazygoodreaders.wordpress.com. and athomewithdyslexia.com Feel free to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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